So, what happens in the body and mind of a woman going through an embryo transfer cycle? It seems simple…
- Give woman hormones
- Insert embryo
- Wait 9 months
- Have baby
For the more than 4 step process, read on to see what happened physically, mentally and emotionally on my recent embryo transfer cycle…
I plan ahead with work. I inform my manager of the upcoming cycle in order to coordinate around doctor appointments and transfer day and to ensure my stress level and workload is manageable. I bravely confide in a couple of co-workers so that they’ll understand why I’m taking on less work for the next month. Mission accomplished. I get ahead on house projects and any heavy lifting. For the past several months, I’ve cleaned out the garage and completed some major junk removal and re-organization. We even re-painted a bedroom. Mission accomplished.
Cycle Day 1: Appointment at the clinic for uterine lining, ovary check and blood work.
March 23, 2018. It was the 5 year anniversary of my first pregnancy loss. A significant, traumatic and horrific experience. The memories are fresh and clear on this day, which I’m reliving on my drive to the doctor appointment to embark on a new cycle. In the waiting room, I’m a ball of nerves. I’m conflicted on whether or not I can handle moving forward with this again. But I’ll push through it. I write a post on a private infertility support group page,
“Today is the 5 year anniversary of losing my baby Jaxon. And here I am in the waiting room, sitting here with cramps and frustrated at the timing of my period messing with my plans to go out of town today in an attempt to celebrate my birthday. I’ll be turning 44 and today starts a new FET cycle. Sometimes I can’t figure out how or why I got here. Struggling to stay positive today but the memories have been flooding back this month and especially this week.”
I try to tell those involved with my appointment that I’m hoping to get through this quickly as I was supposed to go out of town that morning for a weekend getaway (hoping that would get me out of there quicker). No luck. But I did it. I survived the appointment with a heart full of painful memories and a fake smile on my face.
I get in the car and a song with the lyrics “one foot in front of the other” starts playing. I think to myself, how fitting… Yes, one step at a time, I can do this again. The next song plays, “sometimes I feel like giving up but I just can’t, it isn’t in my blood.” The tears start running down my face. Now I feel my Dad’s presence. Not giving up is who we are, it’s in my family. It is in me. The very next song, “I do whatever it takes.” I’ve heard the message, loud and clear. This experience has convinced me that my Dad is there with me supporting me through this again. I can do this.
That afternoon we drive out to our AirBnB for a relaxing weekend. But I can’t shake the depression from the five year anniversary. I struggle all afternoon. I struggle to make it through dinner. My husband decided to give me a birthday card and gift that night and I just stare at it like it’s meaningless. He tried to get me a funny card. I couldn’t laugh.
I start estrogen patches that day and nearly cry as I realize our place for the weekend has a bathtub. I can’t take a bath. I’m afraid it could impact the patches and effective delivery of estrogen into my body. I stare at the bathtub. It is mocking me.
Cycle Day 2 and 3: We go for a hike in a beautiful location. I’m numb for part of it, cry for part of it. I try to take photos but I just don’t have it in me to really see the beauty. The fresh air helps me breathe and I’m thankful for the space, but the sadness still has a hold of me. I convince my husband that instead of going out to dinner, I want to get food at the local market and eat in our room. I just want to curl up, drink tea and read a book. I wake up on the morning of my birthday and I don’t feel any better. I’m flooded with thoughts of my birthday 5 years ago, driving home without my baby.
For the next week, I continue with the estrogen patches and time moves away from painful memories and my mood and energy improves.
Cycle Day 11: April 2. I have my next follow up doctor appointment to check the thickness of my uterine lining. Everything looks good. I get blood work done to check my estrogen and progesterone levels. They are right where they are supposed to be. We discuss the embryo transfer date and when to start progesterone injections. The timing is crucial as I’ve tested and retested for the timing of uterine receptivity for an embryo. There’s a 12 hour time-frame we’ve adjusted to hit that window. The injections will start Wednesday April 4 in the morning, every day for 6 days. The transfer is on the sixth day. We discuss starting Lovenox injections now or if there is a positive pregnancy test result. We decide to start them on the same day as progesterone. The decision to use Lovenox comes after many, many additional tests and multiple doctor’s opinions. Our best guess is that blood thinners could help prevent miscarriage again.
Cycle Day 13: April 4. I start Lovenox and Progesterone injections. Holy crap, Lovenox injections sting something awful and leave nasty bruises.
Cycle Day 16 and 17: April 7 and 8. I start taking other medications – antibiotics and prednisone. I now suffer insomnia for the next few nights due to the prednisone.
Cylce Day 18 – Embryo transfer day
April 9. Today is my brother’s birthday. It’s also a birthday of a very close friend of mine. It feels meant to be. It’s good luck. I text them both and let me know how I’ll be celebrating their birthdays. I get in a good workout and a walk with the dog before going to the appointment.
The embryo transfer is done on a full bladder. That’s really the most difficult part of the procedure. The catheter makes it’s way through my cervix easily and we watch the ultrasound screen without blinking to see the release of the embryo into my uterus. I beg that little embryo to attach and become our baby. Today is a good day. Today gives me the chance to become a mother. I’m full of hope.
The 9 day countdown to the pregnancy test:
Day 1 and 2. April 10-11. The first couple of days are always the best. It’s too early to to try to guess if I’m having any pregnancy symptoms so I just go about my day and tell my embryo to “stick baby stick”. But I still have insomnia. As I lay there for several hours in the middle of the night, I reach out to my Dad in my thoughts and ask him to please help me.
Day 3. April 12. I experience some mild cramping. Could this be implantation? The timing makes sense. Oh please, please, please let it be implantation of the embryo. It gives me hope.
Day 4. April 13. Nothing much to report.
Day 5. April 14. I have a lot of energy, I’m feeling good and hopeful, and noticing subtle changes. Is it the hormones? Could I be pregnant? I ask myself these two questions a million times each cycle. It’s hard to tell the difference between side effects from the hormones and actual pregnancy. But today is a great distraction. I have a wonderful spring day with my Mom, visiting a botanical garden and a goat farm. While taking selfies in the garden, I wonder if I’ll get to look back on the photo later and say to myself, “I was pregnant that day”.
Day 6. April 15. I start to feel pregnancy drowsiness. Is it all in my head? I start to feel breast tenderness which steadily increases until Day 9.
Day 7 and 8. April 16-17. The fatigue increases, and I start to feel some nausea and those feelings increase the following day. I get some mild cramping again. I beg the universe to please let me be pregnant. I’ve been pregnant three other times and this feels like the real deal. The symptoms are stronger with pregnancy than just with the medications. I debate with myself if I could be making it all up in my head. I think I’m losing my mind. I spend hours contemplated doing a home pregnancy test that evening. But what if I’m wrong? I want to feel pregnant at least one more day. I don’t want to lose hope yet. I’m too afraid to to test. All night I dream about pregnancy tests and cycle through thoughts of what if I’m pregnant? What if I’m not?
Day 9. April 18. Test day. The anxiety is at it’s highest. I feel sick with the unknown of positive or negative. I wake up before my alarm and sneak into the bathroom to take a home pregnancy test. I know waiting for blood test results will take all day. So, I just do it. Without telling my husband, thinking this could be that chance to surprise him. I have to be pregnant. How could I feel so many symptoms and not be pregnant? I stare at the test, and the one pink line quickly shows up. I stare at it, willing the second line to fill in pink. And I wait. It doesn’t come. I wait. It doesn’t come. I stare at it in disbelief. Then the tears come. It is over. AGAIN. And now I have to tell my husband the bad news. I still have to drive 45 minutes to the clinic to get my blood drawn. How do I get there, keep myself from crying, make small talk at the front desk, sit in the waiting room, and try to act normal in front of the phlebotomist? I hate this. I hate every second of this. I pull myself together and take a shower and get dressed. My husband is worried about me making the drive while I’m distressed. But I do it. I drive all that way. I smile at the woman at the front desk, I sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes not crying. I pretend I’m not falling apart into a million pieces in front of the phlebotomist, I drive home…and wait for the dreaded phone call confirming my disappointment. The nurse calls in the afternoon and tells me what I already know, but wishing I had been wrong. I can’t stop crying while she tells me the results. All day I’m faced with the realization that everything that gave me hope is also now gone. The music that played on the radio that made me feel like my Dad was there. The song that told me, “I can’t give up, it isn’t in my blood” that played every time I got in the car on the way to or from one of these appointments leading up to this day. The photo of our little embryo that I put up on my desk at home. The date of the embryo transfer that I thought was filled with luck since it fell on the birthday of my brother and very close friend. I think about how hard I’ve worked on my diet, my exercise, and getting things done around the house just in case I got pregnant. Everything that felt like it was meant to be this time around just vanishes. And now I’m left with that grief too.
April 19. The day after the negative test result…
My stomach is battered and bruised and tender from Lovenox injections. My glutes are hard and swollen from progesterone injections. The skin on my belly is irritated from the adhesive of the estrogen patches. I’m exhausted from crying and from the hormones and from crushed dreams. But I have to go to work. My stomach is in knots as I fake my way through the day, portraying a woman who has her shit together. But I feel like I’m dying on the inside. But I can’t say anything to anyone or I will cry. I keep feeling nauseous and my breasts hurt. I feel pregnant. But I’m not. I realize today is the two year anniversary of losing our third pregnancy (twins). The cycle has ended but the tears won’t stop.
Photos by CJE